- Press Release
- May 26, 2023
Distinguishing Biotic vs. Abiotic Origins of ‘Bio’signatures: Clues from Messy Prebiotic Chemistry for Detection of Life in the Universe
It is not a stretch to say that the search for extraterrestrial life is possibly the biggest of the cosmic endeavors that humankind has embarked upon.
With the continued discovery of several Earth-like exoplanets, the hope of detecting potential biosignatures is multiplying amongst researchers in the astrobiology community. However, to be able to discern these signatures as being truly of biological origin, we also need to consider their probable abiotic origin.
The field of prebiotic chemistry, which is aimed at understanding enzyme-free chemical syntheses of biologically relevant molecules, could particularly aid in this regard. Specifically, certain peculiar characteristics of prebiotically pertinent messy chemical reactions, including diverse and racemic product yields and lower synthesis efficiencies, can be utilized in analyzing whether a perceived ‘signature of life’ could possibly have chemical origins.
The knowledge gathered from understanding the transition from chemistry to biology during the origin of life could be used for creating a library of abiotically synthesized biologically relevant organic molecules. This can then be employed in designing, standardizing, and testing mission-specific instruments/analysis systems, while also enabling the effective targeting of exoplanets with potentially ‘ongoing’ molecular evolutionary processes for robust detection of life in future explorative endeavors.
Distinguishing Biotic vs. Abiotic Origins of ‘Bio’signatures: Clues from Messy Prebiotic Chemistry for Detection of Life in the Universe, Life (Open access)
by Niraja V. Bapat 1,* andSudha Rajamani
Life 2023, 13(3), 766; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13030766